For Fifth Time, ACLU Sues Philadelphia Police for Obstructing Recording

Civil Affairs assaults a legal observer during a 2012 demonstration. Photos: Up Against the Law Legal Collective

Civil Affairs assaults a legal observer during a 2012 demonstration. Photos: Up Against the Law Legal Collective

By Dustin Slaughter

The PA chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union today filed yet another lawsuit against the Philadelphia Police Department for illegally prohibiting an individual from filming police activity.

The plaintiff, Amanda Geraci, is a psychotherapist and trained legal observer who was prohibited from filming an arrest during a September 2012 anti-fracking protest outside the PA Convention Center. The department’s Civil Affairs unit was on scene, when one of the officers “restrained her across the neck” and pinned her against a wall, according to the ACLU’s press release.

On September 23rd, 2011, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey issued a two-page directive that specifically barred officers from obstructing the recording of police activity.

Geraci on the incident:

“I have been a legal observer for eight years at numerous protests and I have never experienced anything like this,” said Geraci. “I was shocked when Officer Brown pushed me against a column and restrained me by my neck, just for recording the activities of her colleagues as they arrested someone.”

Past incidents with police involved a student photojournalist documenting an officer’s encounter with a homeless woman; a woman handcuffed and detained for three hours for observing official police business; and a Temple University student who was arrested and prosecuted for documenting police activity with his cell phone. Details on all five complaints can be found here.

For more information on your rights when recording on-duty police officers, visit the Pennsylvania ACLU’s website.

Editor’s note: In the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of Up Against the Law Legal Collective.

Read more from Philly Magazine’s Joel Mathis.

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